A Faculty Member Shares Her Story

A Faculty Member Shares Her Story

If you’re looking for inspiration, we can’t think of anyone more inspiring at the moment than American Sentinel faculty member Debra Shipman, pictured to the left.

Debra currently leads the BSN 405 course (Professional Nursing Issues: Reflective Practice, Issues & Trends). She has an MSN from Old Dominion University and an MBA from Averett University — and at the moment is a PhD candidate.

Yet even though Debra is a lifelong learner, her education hasn’t always come easily. She’s written this little note of encouragement to anyone else who may be following a dream, but struggling a bit along the way.


Dear BSN Students:

I commend you for pursuing a BS. It is not an easy journey for working nurses.  I would like to share my own educational journey with you.

At the age of 30, I was a dislocated factory worker without any job skills.  I enrolled in an AD nursing program in 1991.  At midpoint during the first semester I was failing, and it was not because I wasn’t studying.  I would eat and sleep with a nursing book. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent crying.  I got through it, and graduated in 1994.

Following the AD degree I decided to pursue a BSN.  There were no online classes at that time.  I really had some tough classes and out of all of them I thought I was going to fail a research course.   I passed the research class by only two points and the professor told me that I had a bad semester.  She did not know how much I had prayed to pass her class, stayed up until all hours of the night to do the class work, and cried when I failed a test.  I graduated in 1998.

I enrolled in an MBA program.  During the first two weeks of class, a writing test was given.  I did not do well (ok, I failed it). So then I was crying because I thought I was not going to make it through this program.  I contacted a nurse I used to work with, and asked him to give me writing lessons. He was pursuing a PhD in English and was on a stipend. He needed money, and I needed to learn how to write.  When the Advanced Managerial Economics class just about did me in, my husband asked me, “Do you want me to call him [the professor] so you can pass and stop crying?”   I graduated in 2005.

The worst time with my MSN (my first online experience) was getting the right practicum experiences approved. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I cried because I thought the professor did not like me and I would never get through the program.  I graduated in 2007.

The difference with my PhD experience is that now I have hot flashes and they get worse when I am under stress.  My husband is used to the crying now after all these years.  I just passed my comprehensive finals and became a PhD candidate this past June.

Today I have 14 publication credits! Who would have thought that a dislocated factory worker could publish and be a PhD candidate?  I credit my faith and my husband for giving me the foresight and determination to finish what I have started.  I credit those dedicated professors who raised the bar and helped me grow academically.

So if you are also crying over your course work, remember that your instructors have been there too. And remember that if it were easy to get another degree, everyone would do it.  If professors could grade tears, I would have passed all my courses on the crying alone!   One thing people can’t take away from you is your education — it goes where you go.   Education is an investment in yourself.

Claim your dream!

Debra Shipman, MSN, MBA, PhDc, RN